One of the most popular destinations in Spain is its capital Madrid with over 6 million visitors per year.
The city is known for its historical sites and some of the best art museums in all of Europe but it’s also a haven of Spanish culture from bullfighting to Tapas, Madrid has it all.
Not least to mention that it is officially the sunniest city in Europe with 250 days of sun per year!
With all these epic reasons to visit, you’d think it will cost a fortune but it’s actually very easy to visit on a budget. In this guide I’ll show you where to stay, the best affordable things to do and some top tips for budget travel in Madrid.
Where to Stay in Madrid on a Budget
Accommodation in Madrid is quite inexpensive compared to many other cities in Europe, such as Paris or Amsterdam. The most popular neighborhoods to stay on a trip to Madrid are Centro, La Latina, and Malasana.
Malasana is the best neighborhood for those visiting Madrid on a budget as it is close to the city center and you’ll find some great value for money places to stay. As it’s not right in the city center, you also get the added benefit of a more relaxed atmosphere. A typical budget hotel in Madrid will usually set you back around €100 for a standard double room.
If you are looking to keep your expenses as low as possible, hostel dorm rooms are considerably cheaper than hotels, starting from as little as €13. This is an especially great choice if you’re a solo traveler as many of Madrid’s best hostels offer free dinners and cheap activities.
Free and Affordable Things to Do in Madrid
You can still have an incredible time in Madrid without spending a lot thanks to loads of free and affordable things to do. Here is a Madrid budget bucket list for your trip:
Museo Del Prado
Prado Museum is known to be one of the largest art galleries with over 9,000 pieces of artwork. This museum boasts an impressive permanent collection along with temporary exhibits from prestigious artists.
Prado Museum offers free activities and educational talks to those who sign up at the Jeronimos building 15 minutes beforehand. Museo del Prado offers free admission from 6-8 pm Monday-Saturday, and 5-7 pm on Sundays and holidays.
El Retiro Park
El Retiro, the most famous and the most central park in Madrid, is known for being the green oasis heart of the city. The park is the attraction itself, with many pathways, gardens and even a lake to explore.
A day trip to El Retiro park gives you unlimited activities immersing you into Madrid daily life. You can explore, attend free exhibits, people-watch, meet locals, and make memories for no cost at all.
Spain’s Royal Palace
The Royal Palace is a gorgeous architectural and historical wonder, standing for almost three centuries and remaining one of the biggest palaces in all of Europe.
The Royal Palace is a top tourist destination, and it’s easy to see why. This ticket is well worth budgeting for the small price of €10 to tour the vast estate grounds, gardens, and palace rooms for a few hours.
Walking La Gran Via is a perfect way to soak up Spain’s exciting atmosphere for not much money at all. Gran Via is Madrid’s entertainment, shopping, and cultural center, often bustling with life until early into the morning.
During the day, the streets are filled with shoppers and families, and after dark the streets are lit up with nightlife from bars and clubs along the road. Hanging around Gran Via is a guaranteed way to immerse yourself into daily life as locals in Spain.
Plaza Mayor is a beautiful Renaissance style square where many come to admire the beautiful architecture, hang out at cafes, or just to walk around the large space.
Within the square are bustling cafes, fountains, and a statue of King Phillip III. Plaza Mayor is free to visit, although if you can afford a coffee at a cafe it is definitely worth the experience to sip your coffee and people-watch.
El Rastro Street Markets
El Rastro is a famously popular flea market, held every Sunday. There is a single main street dedicated to market stalls, however, the side streets contain the hidden antique treasures.
Whether you want to reward yourself for staying true to your budget and hunt for a souvenir, or just explore, the market El Rastro is the perfect scavengers hunt for low-budget travelers.
Free Walking Tours
Free walking tours are easily accessible throughout Europe via hostels, travel agencies, and companies advertised through the internet.
Free walking tours are an ideal way to get oriented within the city, along with learning about historical events, sites, and cultural traditions from a local’s perspective.
While they are free, be sure to tip!
Templo de Debod
Templo de Debod is an Egyptian temple located close to the Royal Palace in the middle of Madrid’s city streets. The temple was given to Spain as a thank you from Egypt and its one of the few Egyptian works seen outside Egypt.
This site is a unique and underrated architectural gem in Madrid. The park is free to visit but it is closed from 2 pm-6 pm daily.
Budget-Friendly Tips in Madrid
The easiest way to go over budget is by not planning out your accommodation, food, and travel expenses so here are some top tips to keep you in check.
The most budget-friendly accommodation options, especially for solo travelers, are staying in hostel dorms.
Hostels are budget-friendly, often offering free city tours and sometimes including family dinner in the price of your stay. In addition to being good to your wallet, hostels are brilliant places to meet other travelers with whom to explore the city sites.
Food & Drink
From a hearty seafood paella to rich gazpacho soup, there is no shortage of delicious foods to find in Madrid. I recommend Taberna Malaspina & Bar El Tigre for cheap tapas and delicious wine close to the city center.
Although tapas are the most affordable food you’ll find around Madrid, the most budget-savvy way to eat is to use a hostel kitchen and cook your own meals. This also allows you to take inspiration from the Spanish cuisine and cook the recipes yourself.
Travel around the city is quite easy as most attractions and nightlife are all within walking distance of the city center. However, if you want to explore further than the city center, I recommend exploring via public transportation instead of private taxis.
Madrid’s metro is one of the largest metro systems in Europe so you’ll be able to get around super easily. A metro ticket costs between €1.5 – €2.5 per trip versus a metered taxi’s starting price of €3.
When combining low budget travel tips such as staying in hostels and mixing up cooking and eating out you can keep your daily cost of living in the city as low as €30.
Enjoy your budget trip to Madrid, and hopefully you will be able to afford to travel back to Madrid again. Safe travels!
About the Author
Kieren is a 20-something year old from Wales with a passion for adventure and backpacking. He’s spent time traveling through Europe and Southeast Asia with plenty more on the bucket list. Kieren shares tips and travel guides over at Got My Backpack.
Allison Green is a former educator turned travel blogger. She holds a Masters in Teaching and a B.A. in English and Creative Writing. Her blog posts merge her educational background and her experience traveling to 60+ countries to encourage thoughtful travel experiences that both educate and entertain. She has been a speaker at the World Travel Writers Conference and her writing, photography, and podcasting work has appeared in National Geographic, CNN Arabic, CBC Canada, and Forbes, amongst others. Now based in San Francisco Bay Area where she grew up, she has also lived in Prague, Sofia, and New York City.